Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Reserves kick off their season on Thursday night at home to Arsenal, so following that I will try and report back on how they do and who plays. Lots of last minute transfer rumours flying about. It seems there is a good chance we’ll see three players leave and three players join before the end of the window. Check out TFI, Craven Cottage Newsround, and Following The Fulham for the latest news.
There’s a good chance I won’t be posting again until the weekend for reasons that those who know me will understand, but while I’m away here’s a little video, of Sky Sport’s presenter Chris Kamara doing his nut over the Healy goal that never was, that should put a smile on your face.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We travel to Shrewsbury tonight for the second round of the Carling Cup. I imagine we’ll have to field a fairly strong side due to our injury situation, and this could prove to be a good thing with a number of those players benefiting from an extra game. Keller will certainly appreciate another 90 minutes in goal ahead of Saturday’s crucial Premiership fixture against Spurs. With Baird suspended after his red card at Villa it might also give Moritz Volz a chance to fine tune his ability to maintain a high line. Zat might also be missing (see news story below). The Shrews, managed by ex-Fulham favourite Gary Peter’s, got off to a good start to the season winning their first two matches but lost 3-0 to Franchise F.C. at the weekend. They also have a brand new stadium so this will be our first match at the appropriately named New Meadow. Disappointingly there is no need for a man in a coracle any more. My only visit to previous ground Gay Meadow was for an F.A. Cup third round replay in 1996. Interestingly before that game we visited a small pub just round the corner from the ground that was the first (and then only) non-smoking pub in the town, how things change! We went with high hopes and took a first half lead through Rory Hamill (who I think got himself sent off later in the game) but then saw Shrewsbury fight back to win 2-1. I think we were a division below them back then, so a result would have been seen as a good scalp, let’s hope we avoid that happening to us tonight.
Claus Jensen has announced his retirement from Football. There's more on TOOFIF and
Sky Sports. I’m quite sad to hear this. Claus was undoubtedly a very talented player but his problems with injuries since joining Fulham prevented him from making the impact I’d hoped he would. Even at his best I always though he was a luxury player as you really needed two decent defensive midfielders behind him but good memories include his home debut a 2-0 win against Bolton, his extra time appearance, scoring the final goal and orchestrating a win against Derby in the forth round of the 2005 F.A. Cup, and, the last time I saw him, playing for the reserves against Arsenal in April.
The BBC report that Aston Villa are ready to seal a £4m deal for Zat Knight. Can’t say I’d be happy in losing one of our few fit CB’s but guess this means we have someone else lined up. Villa are also still interested in Liam Rosenior who The Sun say is available for around £2m.
This week is bound to be busy with the transfer window closing on Friday and we have apparently got Stuttgart striker Daniel Luboja on trial. Amongst other similar “needing a big front man” stories it’s The People that plump for the obvious and claim that Fulham are lining up a bid for Monaco's 6’ 7½” Czech striker Jan Koller. Despite stories that midfielder Thomas Gravesen is set to snub an attempt to take him on loan from Celtic, both Sky and the BBC report that we have confirmed our interest.
We have also been linked with a bid for young Port Vale ‘keeper Joe Anyon, with an initial bid of £250,000 rejected by the club. We’ve upset the Vale manager Martin Foyle in doing so though. The Vale boss is incensed with the way Sanchez has behaved claiming “Managers deal with managers and I am disappointed with Lawrie Sanchez. I will be phoning him. They made an offer and then have pulled out straight away. Then they have signed Kasey Keller and straight afterwards it was 'Oh we'll be back for Joe Anyon'”. It doesn’t sound like the way we’d normally do business so we’ll see. It does sound like it wouldn’t take much more to sign Anyon who may be seen as a better prospect for a backup keeper in the long term.
Finally in a mini Cookie watch. Real Sociedad lost their first game of the season 0-2 at home to CD Castellon. In his post match interview Chris Coleman spoke of how nervous his players were after conceding in the first half, and that the second goal scored early in the second half forced them to chase the game. There’s also the third Postcard from San Sebastian in the Daily Mail. It’s definitely going to be a long hard season for Chris, I hope he gets the time he’ll need to turn things around.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Patience is going to be required whilst we ride out the "bad luck storm" that is currently making our squad look as threadbare as at any time last season. I'm down at my Dad's so despite not going to the match had the benefit of extended Football First highlights to assess the game (albeit highlights from a horribly distant camera position). An own goal, an injury to our replacement Captain and then a (deserved) sending off all contributed to our downfall, but the pace of Villa's attack had caused us problems right from the off.
In my preview I had been wrong about the system Villa are playing. It’s a 4-3-3 with John Carew leading the line and Young & Agbonlahor supporting from wider positions. Interestingly Sanchez choose to match this formation, no doubt partly due to a lack of left wingers, and played a front line of Healy, Dempsey and Kamara. This had the affect of leaving both our full backs a little exposed, as, despite some good work tracking back from the front men, there was always room for the pace of Young and Agbonlahor to push on. This was emphasised when as early as the 3rd minute, Young attacked down our right and elicited a very poor challenge from Chris Baird which resulted in a Yellow card. Young was to cause Baird problems all afternoon and that early mistake would prove costly later in the game.
We scored early though and maybe had we kept eleven men on the field could have been stubborn enough to earn a point. Kamara collected a defensive clearance and broke quickly from our own half. He exchanged passes with Steven Davis, and as he tried again to find Davis, his attempted through ball was deflected into the centre of the penalty area where Clint Dempsey had made a great run and finished with style to give us a 6th minute lead.
Shortly after that we had a great chance to go two up. Davis and Healy took an unusual free kick (I'm still not sure if it was planned or a botch job) from which Healy floated a cross into the area. The ball was half cleared but fell to Kamara who fired low and hard only to see the ball deflected off Craig Gardner's hand. A difficult one to call, later replays suggest we had a good shout for a penalty as Gardner's hand did move toward the ball, but my first reaction was that it was ball to hand so I don't think you can blame the officials for missing it.
In the second half Villa switched to 4-4-2, Luke Moore replacing Stilian Petrov. Young and Agbonlahor continued to frighten our full backs, whilst Moore added more pace to the middle and John Carew was now less isolated. Despite this we had another good chance early on with Kamara collecting the ball well on the edge of the box and firing a great shot that hit the post and somehow bounced back for the Villa defence to clear. A good through ball almost saw Luke Moore in on goal but Keller was out quickly to claim it. Then Young again beat Baird and fired a pacey ball across goal where Knight was unfortunate to deflect it in past Keller. I felt Zat was unlucky as there wasn't much else he could do. Almost straight after the equaliser our "curse of the Captain" continued as Zat limped off to be replaced by Ian Pearce. Bocanegra took over as Captain.
The pressure was starting to build now. Keller saved well again from Moore, before seeming to go down with cramp (been a long time since he had to play 90 minutes!). Then Collins John came on to replace Healy. John had hardly touched the ball though before the crucial decision of the game saw Chris Baird sent off for another clumsy challenge on Ashley Young. Villa actually scored from this move, but the ball was brought back for a free kick. A let off, but a warning. Volz replaced Kamara to fill the gap left by Baird, but Kamara was also yellow carded as referee Bennett felt he was taking too long to leave the field of play.
Villa sensing the chance of three points replaced Bouma and Carew with Maloney and Harewood, but again it was Fulham who found themselves with a chance on goal. Collins John collected a good through ball in the penalty area but then completely lost control before falling over his own feet. A Fulham corner also saw both Boca and Dempsey rise unchallenged and Dempsey's header forced an excellent save out of Scott Carson.
With time running out we were finally undone as Ashley Young played a defence splitting pass through to Maloney who fired home past the advancing Kasey Keller. For some reason Volzy had switched places with Ian Pearce and was caught in no man's land as Maloney, possibly slightly offside, found the space to control and shoot. A disappointing conclusion, despite Villa's undoubted dominance.
Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 formation (despite what I said in the report! See comments) as follows;
- GK 01 Keller
- RB 34 Baird
- CB 06 Knight (c)
- CB 03 Bocanegra
- LB 04 Konchesky
- RM 25 Davies
- CM 10 Davis
- CM 08 Smertin
- LM 11 Kamara
- ST 23 Dempsey
- ST 09 Healy
Subs: 12 Warner, 14 Diop, 02 Volz (for 11 on 69), 19 Pearce (for 06 on 56), 15 John (for 09 on 65)
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Villa are difficult to assess. They have only played two games so far, losing to Liverpool on the opening day (largely thanks to an extremely dubious free kick won by Steven Gerrard) and then put in an impressive performance to draw with Newcastle at St. James' Park last week. However, with only one point on the board, Villa will be clearly looking to take all three against us and we'll need to put in an almighty effort to avoid another loss. This is exactly the sort of game Sanchez needs to get something from we have to make ourselves difficult to beat if we are going to improve on Coleman's achievements.
Villa are likely to play 4-4-2 with John Carew defying his "dodgy knees" to partner the exciting Agbonlahor up front. Stilian Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker will be the driving force in the middle of the park with Gareth Barry and Ashley Young providing the width. A back four of Bouma, Gardner, Laursen & Mellberg and Scott Carson in goal completes their likely starting eleven. I think Villa will look to play a similar style to us so the key areas will be that central midfield battle and our back line's ability to contain Agbonlahor. Steven Davis will be looking to impress on his return to the team he had played for since his youth, and he will need to work hard alongside Alexey Smertin if we're to come away with any points. Villa's weak point maybe young Craig Gardner, a 19 year old midfielder, who is filling in at right back. Villa have been fairly quiet in the summer transfer window and most Villa fans have a genuine right back at the top of their wish list.
Fulham will have to shuffle the side for the first time this term due to the McBride and Bouazza injuries. I have no idea how far away Lee Cook is from fitness but if he is unable to play I think we will probably see Clint Dempsey continue to fill in on that side. Despite a lot of speculation we have not been able to sign a big centre forward in time so I expect that Kamara will join Healy up front. Tony Warner gets the chance to make amends for his last two performances, but Kasey Keller will be on the bench and will surely be pushing hard for a spot if Niemi's injury is worse than first thought. The rest of the team is likely to stay the same as our first three matches. Hopefully Healy can continue his goal scoring streak and our defence can be robust enough to keep a clean sheet.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Fulham Squad Details 2007/08
New Fulham cult hero David Healy scored twice tonight to help Northern Ireland to a 3-1 win over Liechtenstein. That takes Healy's unofficial* total to 5 goals in 4 games. Chris Baird captained the side that also featured Steven Davis and, possible Fulham target, Kyle Lafferty who scored the third goal. Northern Ireland are now second in their group.
In other International news Simon Davies played in Wales' 1-0 victory in Bulgaria. Papa Bouba Diop made his presence felt, particularly on Michael Essien, at The New Den where Senegal and Ghana fought out a 1-1 draw. Adrian Leijer helped the Australian U23 side to a 0-0 draw with Iraq in their attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games and Ricardo Batista kept goal for the Portugese U21 side that beat Malta 3-0.
Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey both featured in the U.S.A's 1-0 loss in Sweden. Clint Dempsey nearly scored for the Americans firing a low shot from inside the penalty area that goalkeeper Rami Shaaban barely got his gloves on.
Meanwhile during the England v Germany friendly at the new Wembley, both Paul Robinson and Jens Lehmann did their best to make Tony Warner feel a whole lot better about himself.
* Healy's unofficial total includes "the goal that should have been" against Middlesbrough.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Our current injury list reads something like this; McBride (Knee - 3 months), Bullard (Knee - 2 1/2 months), Hughes (Ankle - 6 weeks), Bouazza (Shoulder - 5 weeks), Cook (Knee - return unknown), Niemi (Wrist - back soon) and of course Elliott and Elrich who are unlikely to see action even if they manage to get fit. Added to that are the players who are likely to be moving on; Diop, Rosenior, John, Pearce and Christanval. If my sums are correct that leaves us with about 17 fit players. It's enough, but only just.
My biggest concern is the lack of a target man. I was expecting us to try and sign some sort of back up for McBride as he seemed to be a key component in the way we planned on playing. The affect his departure had on the team on Saturday only went to emphasis how true that is. So now we find ourselves completely bereft of a player capable of playing that role. Kamara is surely still carrying an injury so I am not to perturbed by his relatively ineffective performance against 'Boro, I think there is more to come from him. Healy continues to look sharp but needs someone to play off and I just can't see who that might be in our current team.
Two really very poor errors from Tony Warner have put him in the spotlight (just next to Jens Lehmann). I think we need to bring in someone better, but maybe if Niemi's return is imminent he will get a stay of execution until January. So far I think the defence have been very solid. Carlos did make a bad error which led to 'Boro's winning goal, but that aside has looked pretty good as has Knight. However, I am sure Sanchez realised this was area that needed improving and with his man Hughes out for a while I think we will see one more addition before the end of August.
I had felt Sanchez was going to be able to blend the best of Coleman's squad with his own signings and we'd be up and running pretty quickly. It now looks like he is going for a complete rebuild job, which will inevitably take some time to settle. There's a very long way to go and it doesn't matter where you are in August it's where you are in May that counts. I'm thinking positive and will try not to worry too much until after Christmas.
In the words of the mighty Micky Adams - Keep the faith!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
A couple of great articles from the Times that were pointed out to me by my American friend BQ. Coleman embraces new challenge and Outsider Coleman feels home at last. There's also been another Postcard from San Sebastian in the Mail and this article on the BBC. This suggests to me that there is going to be a lot of media interest in how Cookie performs. The odds are hugely stacked against him, with very little money and the need to rely on home grown Basque talent, but I suspect the British media are actually going to be quite supportive of him.
There's been an increase in rumours following Saturday's disaster with a number of players being linked with moves in and out of the club. With ten days remaining of the transfer window it's always an edgy time and if some of the rumours are true then it's concerning that we might be letting players move on at a time when our squad appears to be thinner than we might have hoped. Richard covers all of this very well on Craven Cottage Newsround.
Brian McBride may or may not need surgery on his knee, either way he is going to be out for at least three months. This means we are looking for another striker who can be strong in the air and hold the ball up for the likes of Healy and Kamara. Maybe it's Kyle Lafferty but that could just be another lazy Northern Ireland link. Papa Bouba Diop has apparently been given the go ahead to leave Fulham and is being linked with a move to either Portsmouth or Newcastle. If The Wardrobe does go it will leave us light in central midfield, the (rarely reliable) News of the World suggest that PSG's Sammy Traore, who can also play centre back, may fill the void.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Fulham Team Sheet 2007/08
Fulham Goalscorers 2007/08
Fulham Bad Boys 2007/08
Sunday, August 19, 2007
We've had a few setbacks this weekend but the road goes ever on.
Keep the faith.
Come on you Whites!
We started really brightly. Slick passing, lots of movement and on the few occasions 'Boro did get the ball we'd win it back really easily. Both Davies and Bouazza caused problems on their respective wings, Smertin continued his good form as the lynchpin of the midfield and Steven Davis was looking more impressive than he had midweek. McBride and Healy also looked good together up front. McBride winning a lot of ball, and Healy buzzing around and causing all sorts of problems for the 'Boro defence. Then the bizarre stuff started to happen. Firstly we had a long delay as referee Lee Mason went off with a groin injury and was replaced by old "favourite" Andy D'Urso. Then we scored but in doing so McBride was injured and had to be stretchered off the field. Nice work from Simon Davies on the right wing led to a good cross in which eventually fell at the feet of McBride. Big Brian fired home but, whilst we were all celebrating, Brian remained motionless on the ground. Our new Captain is not a man to stay down and the lack of movement told us it must be something bad. Later reports confirmed that he had dislocated his knee an injury, not dissimilar to Bullard's last year, that must put him out of action for a fairly long time.
After the second lengthy pause in the game, and undoubtedly partly because of the seriousness of the injury, things went a bit flat, both on the pitch and in the crowd. Matters weren't made any better when Hammeur Bouazza collapsed after a fairly innocuous challenge from 'Boro's Andrew Davies. Yet again the player's body language told the story and as he slowly walked off clutching his shoulder it seemed we'd lost another player to a bad injury. This one is a dislocated shoulder which may not be so bad (I feared a broken collar bone) but will certainly keep him out of action for a few weeks. Kamara had joined the fray to replace McBride and Clint Dempsey took the place of Bouazza. The game had become a bit disjointed now, and I had that nagging feeling that having dominated the first 20 minutes we might have missed our chance. Just before the end of the half Healy had a great chance to put us two up but fired directly in Schwarzer's face.
If losing McBride and Bouazza wasn't bad enough the next twist in this match was the real turning point. Mido shot low and hard from the corner of the penalty area and initially Warner seemed to have claimed it comfortably. But, for the second time in two matches, Warner's concentration was not up to scratch. The ball bobbled out of his grasp and rolled into the corner of the net. 1-1 and from nowhere 'Boro had been gifted a lifeline they scarcely deserved. We tried to get ourselves back into the game and seemed to have done so when Kamara fired in from another Davies cross. This was disallowed due to a Dempsey challenge on Andrew Davies who also needed lengthy treatment. The rate it was going I didn't think we'd be leaving the ground before 6:00. During another period of player treatment, there was the bizarre sight of the entire team trooping over to the home dugout for a mid-half prep talk from the boss. I've never seen anything like it but hoped it might do the trick and give us the impetuous we needed to get a result. With around 10 minutes left we should have done. Steven Davis did well to find his way into the box, fired a ball across goal which first evaded Healy (who was subsequently taken out by the 'Boro centre back) but fell at the feet of Dempsey who somehow shot wide of the open net from six yards. It was a bad miss, but it gave him a bit of a spur and, shortly afterwards, he fired another decent shot across goal which Schwarzer did well to reach. Then came the moment we knew it wasn't our day. Aliadiere twisted and turned down the right wing before playing a well weighted pass to the onrushing Cattermole who shot across Warner and found the far corner of the net. 2-1 down and with time running out things looked bleak. Volzy had been warming up but following the goal it was Diop who came on to replace Steven Davis. The all hell broke lose. Healy shot from close range and, whilst the net hadn't bulged, he and several other players clearly believed he had scored. The goal wasn't given but having now seen the replay it was well over the line before Schwarzer clawed it back. The lino wasn't having it though and shortly after that the whistle blew.
It's hard to believe we lost, despite losing our way at times, I felt we were comfortably the better team and really a couple of individual errors cost us at least a point if not all three. The loss of two players is a concern but especially the loss of McBride. It was obvious when he went off that we do not have another player capable of performing that role, and with time still left in the transfer window I think it is a priority to find someone who can fill the gap caused by McBride's absence.
The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows;
GK 12 A.Warner
RB 34 C.Baird
CB 06 Z.Knight
CB 03 C.Bocanegra
LB 04 P.Konchesky
RM 25 S.Davies
CM 10 S.Davis
CM 08 A.Smertin
LM 24 H.Bouazza
ST 20 B.McBride (C)
ST 09 D.Healy
Subs: 13 R.Batista, 11 D.Kamara (for 20 on 20), 23 C.Dempsey (for 24 on 35), 14 P.B.Diop (for 10 on 90), 02 M.Volz
Friday, August 17, 2007
A few weeks ago I remarked on Lawrie Sanchez' excellent choice in spectacles having seen him wearing a pair that appeared to be very similar to my own. Now I don't know if it was just a bad picture or, having read my blog, Lawrie felt he needed something even more cutting edge but the pair he is wearing now are truly awful. The enjoyable football blog Who Ate All The Pies have produced an brilliant lookalike that may be a little too close for comfort. Trust me Lawrie you should have stuck with the pair like mine!
Chatting with my friends during the Bolton game, we were all a bit surprised that there had been no news of Radzinski or Jensen since they were released. I've been googling a bit today to see if there was any news. According to the BigSoccer forum Tomasz Radzinski was spotted near Elland Road and was talking with Leeds United about a potential contract. Elsewhere there have been a few reports linking Claus Jensen with a move to a Spanish La Liga club (not Real Sociedad!) or failing that a return back home to Denmark.
Finally the Hyypia to Fulham rumour has been gaining credence, though maybe just by the number of times it's been repeated. We have been linked with Sami Hyypia on and off for the best part of two years now, so I remain enormously sceptical that it is ever going to happen. In theory Hyypia is exactly what we've been looking for since we lost Coleman to injury but there remains the concern that he could be past his best. However, he still managed 24 league appearances for the Reds last season and played the full match as they beat Toulouse 1-0 yesterday afternoon.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
A catalogue of errors led to Bolton's opening goal. Konchesky tried to control the ball instead of clearing it, which led eventually to a Bolton throw in. Nicky Hunt placed one of his monster throws deep into our penalty area where Zat had a 'mare, letting the ball bounce and failing to clear the danger. Still there was no immediate danger and as Warner seemed to have claimed the ball everyone relaxed. However, as Warner came down he collided with Zat Knight and lost control of the ball, which then bounced behind him where Heidar Helguson (it was inevitable H would score) was waiting to slot home what could possibly be the easiest goal of his career. After that, and as the rain went from bad to worse, we seemed to struggle to find our rhythm. Bolton had a lot of possession and were passing it around really neatly. Anelka and Diouf were looking dangerous up front and I was beginning to fear the worst.
We won a free kick down in the right hand corner and Chris Baird played a decent ball into the box. Zat made contact with his head to loop the ball high in the air and, under a challenge from McBride, a Bolton defender headed the ball towards goal. With two defenders close by Healy reacted quickest and fired home from the edge of the 6 yard box. This gave the team a lift and suddenly we had more about us and started to look more incisive. The second goal came as a Davies corner was cleared by Bolton. Smertin claimed the ball and with no immediate challenge he had time to take a touch inside before firing a shot towards the right hand post. Bolton defender Cid made contact with it as it flew towards him, but only succeeded in firing the ball into the left hand corner. Just before the break we almost saw a carbon copy of Healy's goal against Arsenal. Jaaskeleinen collected the ball in the corner of his area, but then inexplicably lost control. Healy reacted quickly to nick the ball away but as he moved to pass the 'keeper appeared to be impeded. I think he maybe made too much of the challenge, and even if he had got past a defender was closing on the ball quite quickly, so on reflection the ref probably got it right.
We had our moments in the second half with McBride having a decent chance early on. Warner made a couple of decent saves, and Smertin and Davis were working hard in the centre. With about 10 minutes remaining, Kamara replaced Healy and Dempsey replaced Bouazza. Kamara really looked the business, he's got bags of pace and a decent first touch, I can't wait for him to be back to full fitness so we can see what he's really like. Probably our best chance of the second half came as Steven Davis fired in a glorious cross from the left wing which Kamara, who had done brilliantly well to stay onside, just failed to connect with. After that the latter stages saw Bolton in the ascendancy again as they piled on the pressure in search of an equalizer. Some poor finishing on their part and some dogged defending on ours ensured we claimed all three points. Playing poorly and winning is a not a bad habit to have.
Plus points from the night were that the defence as a unit, barring that early lapse, looked very well drilled. We again played a very high line and this time pulled it off very successfully. Chris Baird was particularly solid, making numerous important tackles and blocks, and Bocanegra had a spell in the first half when it seemed nothing could pass him. Smertin also worked hard all night and deserves to claim that goal however big the deflection was. Healy was lively and as well as looking sharp in the box, worked very hard and covered a lot of ground as he looked to play off McBride's knockdowns. I should also mention Tony Warner who, after that dreadful early error, stuck to his guns and made good saves in both halves to help ensure our victory. I don't want to dwell on the negatives too much but I felt Steven Davis struggled to get into the game early on. He did get stronger as the match progressed though culminating in that superb ball to Kamara near the end. Paul Konchesky also had a poor game, getting caught in the wrong position a number of times, and getting caught in possession at least twice.
A great start to the season though, hopefully we can get an improved performance on Saturday with the same result. Some dryer weather would be nice too. Despite being in row JJ of the Hammy End, my seat is right next to the executive boxes and thanks to a small gap between them and a lack of corrugated iron I was quite wet by half time. Still it can't rain like that again ... can it?
The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows;
GK 12 A.Warner
RB 34 C.Baird
CB 06 Z.Knight
CB 03 C.Bocanegra
LB 04 P.Konchesky
RM 25 S.Davies
CM 10 S.Davis
CM 08 A.Smertin
LM 24 H.Bouazza
ST 20 B.McBride (C)
ST 09 D.Healy
Subs: 13 R.Batista, 11 D.Kamara (for 9 on 79), 23 C.Dempsey (for 24 on 80), 14 P.B.Diop, 02 M.Volz
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Until Niemi came along we had struggled to find a 'keeper good enough to be first choice, and have spent the last two seasons trying out a succession of possible backups. This season we only have Tony Warner and Ricardo Batista to fall back on, and of those Batista is surely still too young and inexperienced to be risked. Warner was excellent on Sunday and the question is really whether he is up to the job or not. During his first spell, on loan from Cardiff, he did reasonably well and appeared to have a safe pair of hands. He kept a clean sheet against Birmingham on his debut and also put on a good display in our final match at Highbury. In that game he saved a penalty early on (if he'd done that at the Emirates we really would be signing his praise) and although he went on to concede 4, it was the defence that took the bulk of the blame. He continued in goal until the return of Mark Crossley and then had to cope with occasional games here and there, including a second half substitution at the Walham Green Dog Track where I seem to remember him not looking so confident.
Having signed him on full terms in January he made only 5 further league appearances, the last of which saw him concede a total of 12 goals in three matches against Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool. Last season saw him play just one competitive match for Fulham, sandwiched between loan spells at Leeds and Norwich, the very shaky performance at home to Leicester in the Carling Cup. Apart from that one off appearance last season, a bizarre game for all concerned, we've not really seen much of Warner to make a decent assessment. I suspect he may have lost some confidence, having been in and out of the side towards the end of 2005/06 and then booted out to play for struggling Championship teams neither of whom seemed keen to take him on full time. Maybe the Emirates performance is evidence that Warner has recovered his self belief but for now doubts remain over his ability to perform consistently over a full season.
If we do need to sign a new 'keeper then there are a couple of issues we'll have to resolve. The transfer window closes at the end of August so any deal needs to be brokered and completed in fairly quick time. We also need to identify exactly what type of goalie we actually need. Finding a "number 2" 'keeper is not an easy thing to do. Any player capable of performing at the desired level in the Premier League is unlikely to be keen to sign for a club who want him to just sit on the bench. Traditionally this has meant looking for an "experienced" older pro who has maybe fallen down the pecking order at his current club, or plucking some young bright thing from the lower reaches of the leagues. The problem with this approach is that the older pro may be just as injury prone as Niemi, and the young bright thing may not be up to the job. I think our best approach, although initially more expensive, will be to try and sign a new number 1, or at least a 'keeper capable of competing for the number 1 spot.
I like Antti a lot, and believe he is as good a 'keeper as we're likely to see, but his robustness is a definite concern. I think any top class player with belief in his ability would be prepared to fight for his place, so bringing in another quality 'keeper would only be a good thing for the team. If this is the approach the club choose to take I wouldn't be surprised to see no signing made in the current window. Getting the right player is essential and I think Sanchez would rather keep faith with the players he has and then focus on picking up a new 'keeper in January when fresh funds may be available. I think Tony Warner deserves his chance to stake a claim and, with two home games still to come before Niemi returns, hope we are signing his name again on Wednesday and Saturday.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
MOTD2 provided me with a brief glimpse of what the game was like and largely confirmed the reports coming from TFI. Tony Warner replaced Niemi in goal (who injured his hand in the warm up) and proceeded to have an absolute blinder. The team as a whole looked well drilled, with the defence in particular gaining praise for a solid performance. We played a very high line at the back, which is not easy to do, but for over 80 minutes succeeded in implementing it very well. We also created a few decent chances and it was pleasing to see Healy capitalise on the early mistake by Lehmann, a chance that could easily have been spurned. The penalty that brought Arsenal back into the game, seemed clear cut to me, and there had also been an earlier challenge by Baird on Hleb that was equally deserving. Fabregas did clip Steven Davis' heel in the second half, and I feel if the ref had seen it we would have got a penalty as well. Following the penalty it seemed that tired legs (and minds) got the better of us and, as Fabregas found more time to control the game, this led to our defence being caught slightly flat footed for the winning goal.
Overall, whilst we were undoubtedly unlucky not to claim a point, we cannot be too upset with the final result. The team looked like they all understood their roles, and the effort and application was excellent. This bodes well for the season ahead, now we have to turn a performance into points.
The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows;
- GK 12 A.Warner
- RB 34 C.Baird
- CB 06 Z.Knight
- CB 03 C.Bocanegra
- LB 04 P.Konchesky
- RM 25 S.Davies
- CM 10 S.Davis
- CM 08 A.Smertin
- LM 24 H.Bouazza
- ST 20 B.McBride (C)
- ST 09 D.Healy
Rich of CCN went to the match and has got an excellent report (with photos) here. For the Arsenal perspective check out DT's views at Gillespie Road and if you're really a glutton for punishment there are more at East Lower and A Cultured Left Foot. That's all probably a bit over the top, but it's the first game of the season and I'm getting a bit carried away.
In other news The Sunday Times suggest that Sanchez has offered to swap Liam Rosenior for Reading's Icelandic central defender Ivar Ingimarsson and Korean midfielder Ki-Hyeon Seol. Liam wasn't in the squad today and the rumour about Reading's interest has been raised before, especially with Reading's current right back, Nicky Shorey the subject of interest from West Ham. The less reliable News of the World are reporting that we are preparing a £600,000 bid for Paris Saint Germain centre-back Sammy Traore.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Despite my optimism I don't have as high an expectation this time around. Last season I really felt we were ready to push on and be comfortably in the top ten, with an outside chance of a top six finish. This time I feel we will be happy with staying up, hopefully confirmed a few games before the end of the season and maybe if things go to plan, a good cup run or even a final appearance to enjoy. Whatever the outcome I can't believe we can be any worse than last year and my biggest wish for this season is that, however many points we claim, the football we get to watch will be more exciting.
I believe we're going to see a more straightforward 4-4-2 system played home and away. I don't think it will be Wimbledon style hoof-ball, but it will be pacey and direct. We'll make use of the wings and will also look to stretch defences with some pace up front. Kamara may be playing in a free role just off McBride (so more of a 4-4-1-1 really). This puts a lot of emphasis on new Club Captain McBride as we currently don't have another striker who can play that target man role. Our other strikers, though, will be able to come in and provide some variation up front. Healy is a tricky little player with a lot of skill, and I can see him being used a lot off the bench. Bouazza may get to play more often on the left wing but will also provide backup to Kamara. We might also find that if two pacey strikers are required we'll see Bouazza and Kamara in tandem. Collins John remains a bit of an enigma but there is room for him to make a mark if he puts his mind to it.
The midfield should have more width and pace than last season, two attributes we were clearly short of. I expect Lee Cook to eventually claim the left wing spot with Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey fighting it out for the right side. Dempsey is clearly a talented player and he may also get the opportunity to play in the middle or even just off the main striker as he did so effectively against Liverpool last May. Centrally Steven Davis and Alexey Smertin seem the likely starters, though Diop will be pushing hard for a place. When Jimmy Bullard returns, probably not before November, he'll add a bit a guile and cunning to the centre as well.
I think the back four will, once everyone is fit, be fairly consistent throughout the season. Baird and Konchesky will be the full backs, with Aaron Hughes (when he recovers) being the mainstay of the centre. Zat seems to be in pole position for the last place at the moment, but the absence of Hughes in the first few weeks may give Christanval or Bocanegra or Pearce the chance to stake a claim. Niemi of course will be number one, though his potential for picking up injuries is a concern, as we currently stand, without a decent backup 'keeper.
If all goes well I think we're in for an exciting season, I'm looking for more goals, better football and a lot less miserable draws.
£1m Aaron Hughes
£4m Steven Davis
£6m Diomansey Kamara
£3m Chris Baird
£3m Paul Konchesky
£1.5m David Healy
£2.5m Lee Cook
£3m Hameur Bouazza
£?k Adrain Leijer
£24m Total Spend - 9 Players
Released - Tomaz Radzinski
Released - Claus Jensen
Retired - Mark Pembridge
Free to Oldham - Mark Crossley
Free to Swansea - Matty Collins
Loan End - Vincenzo Montella
Loan End - Wayne Routledge
Loan End - Jan Lastuvka
£2m to Bolton - Heider Helguson
£3m to Wigan - Micheal Brown
£2.5m to Birmingham - Franck Queudrue
Loan to F.C. Kaiserslauten - Bjorn Runstrom
£7.5m Total Income - 12 Players
1 First Choice backup Goalkeeper
1 Experienced Centre Back
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
For those of us that get excited by these things there are a few interesting omissions. Firstly there's no number 1. I wouldn't read too much into that, Antti likes number 29 for some reason and that's why he's not taken it. I think there is still a chance we might sign a "proper" back up 'keeper before the end of August and maybe he'll get the shirt. I figure there will be a few 'keepers who've seen bigger signings come in during the window and will be prepared to warm our bench as first choice back-up.
There are no numbers allocated to Gabriel Zakuani, Simon Elliott or Ahmed Elrich. Now both Elliott and Elrich are long term injuries so Sanchez has not yet had the chance to run the rule over them. When he does I doubt he'll be that impressed and with both players out of contract in June 2008 I would expect them to be let go when their contracts end. Zakuani is a more interesting case. We spent £1m bringing him in from Orient and he's got another three years on his contract. With the signing of Leijer and the continued improvement of Elliot Omozusi though I can't see a place for Zak in our current set up. The likelihood is that if we don't sell him we'll let him go our on loan again, either way I feel a bit sorry for the guy who must have been over the moon when Coleman signed him a little over a year ago.
A couple of interesting quotes from Wikipedia. His first season with Victory "was a disaster and a real flashback of his season at the Melbourne Knights; Melbourne Victory had finished second last and last out of all the Australian teams in the league, however, his contribution to the team awarded him with The Players' Player of the Year and Clubman of the Year". His second season at the club was more successful, with Leijer cementing his position in the team alongside Rodrigo Vargas and Daniel Piorkowski, at the end of the season "having completed the double he was voted Hyundai A-League Young Player of the Year".
I've said previously that this is an odd signing. At 21 he's obviously not being considered someone who will be straight into the first team, yet he's at an age where if he's going to make it in a major league he needs to be playing first team football. I guess we'll have to trust Lawrie's judgement on this one, I may get to see him at a reserves match soon and will report back on how he looks but for now I don't think we need worry too much about how good he is.
DT maybe you could start by giving us a brief introduction to yourself and Gillespie Road?
I’ve been a gooner all my life. I honestly can’t remember not supporting them. My Dad is from the West Country, and is a Robin’s fan, but I was drawn into the gooner fold by my best mate. We’ve known each other for about 23 years, and as such I *think* that’s how long I’ve been an Arsenal fan. My Dad was always a big rugby supporter, Bath to be specific (his home town), but never really did the whole football thing with me, so I was left to my own devices on that front and ended up supporting the team my bezzie mate did. Rugby wise I am a Bath fan, so my Dad doesn’t feel like a complete failure. Gillespie Road is my latest project. I started a homepage back in the late 90’s that was a good grounding in basic HTML, but quickly lost interest in it. A few years ago, I discovered the Arsenal blog scene and became an avid reader of various sites. This summer, the whole transfer speculation thing, and the maelstrom of crap that surrounded TH’s departure really got on my wick. I had to do something. Gillespie Road was the answer – chucking my two bits out into the net is a great release. The readership is slowly increasing by the day, so I must be doing something right! I try and put a positive spin on things as well. There’s too much negativity from some ‘fans’ that have been spoilt by the Wenger years. If you think back to the mediocrity of the mid 80’s, we really should give thanks the last ten years have seen such a massive turnaround in the fortunes of the club.
What are your expectations for Arsenal this season and how do you think you'll cope with the loss of Thierry Henry?
Ah. The old Henry angle eh? I knew you’d ask that. Henry was never my favourite Arsenal player. I have massive respect for him as a player and I’m thankful he spent the glory years of his career at Arsenal, but for me, Dennis Bergkamp was always the one. Iceman was truly a genius. He may not have been as prolific in front of goal as the Frenchman, but it was Dennis who was the architect of so many of his goals. Thierry was a great Arsenal player – one who typified the Wenger ideology. But now he’s gone and we have to move on. Last season Thierry spent a lot of time out injured and I’m sure that had a negative impact on the team. Not because he wasn’t scoring the goals, but because the rest of the players weren’t sure what to do without him. The team was built around the way he played the game, and without him running the channels and producing moments of inspiration; the side looked a little lost. Also, when he did play, he was in a permanent grump. I think we’ll benefit from the loss of his negative attitude that pervaded his performances last season. It will allow players like Adebayor and van Persie to kick on to the next level as they will not be subject to “Le Stare” any more. It may mean a slight change in gameplan, but I think the team, on and off the pitch, know exactly how to affect this and we’ll prove a few people wrong – mainly all those that think the Spuds will finish fourth!
Of the new signings made this summer who do you think will make the biggest impact?
A lot of people will be looking at Eduardo da Silva to score a hatful like he did for Zagreb. I’d be surprised if he does. He’ll need time to settle and adapt, but I am expecting him to do well. Don’t get me wrong! For me though, the key player is Bacary Sagna. His interplay with Eboue/Hleb/Theo will provide the platform for many attacks. He has shown that he is capable of solid defence and good attacking play and the threat down the right could be comparable to the days of Pires and C*le. This will allow the likes of Eduardo the freedom to play their natural game and maybe score a load of goals. I’ll be surprised if Fabianski gets more than a handful of appearances, and Nordtveit is just too young and in experienced. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that there might be another signing before the 31st though.
Do you agree Eduardo da Silva looks like a member of 80's Mowtown popsters DeBarge?
I hadn’t actually thought so until you mentioned it, but yes. Oh my god yes!
What are you impressions of the new Emirates Stadium and how much do you miss Highbury?
The stadium is fantastic and it shows the direction the club is heading in. The vastness of it is so imposing for visiting teams, but it lacks some of the intimacy of Highbury. But I’ll warm to it. Sitting in the west stand of Highbury I could nearly touch the players, and I’m pretty sure they could hear me (specifically, above all the others) shouting, and that’s missing from the new ground. But we needed to move. For all the sentimentality Highbury held, it was not the place that was going to help propel the club into the next stage in it’s regeneration under Arsene Wenger. A new home was vital to the revenue generation and general impression the club needed to create. I take my hat off to the board members who listened to Arsene and help get the build done. The repayments are manageable and don’t really effect the boss’s budget for signings (despite what people say) and we can still turn over a profit at the end of the FY. Something the Glazer’s and Abramhovic’s of this world should take note of.
What are your views on selling the naming rights to the stadium, wouldn't you prefer it to have a proper name that would stay with it forever?
It already does. It’s The Grove. No one I know calls it “The Emirates”. I’m thankful for the money they paid to have their name plastered over it, but it’s not their stadium. It’s ours – the fans. We like “The Grove” and that’s what will remain after all the naming rights have been and gone. You know that Highbury was officially called Arsenal Stadium, right? As in the mystery film? Well, it was, but every single person in the world called in Highbury. Don’t be fooled by the media who have to call it by the “official” name, the only official name is what we the fans call it by consensus of opinion.
What is going on with that third strip you're about to release?
Hideous isn’t it? A money making plan and nothing else. Ironically similar to Barcelona’s home strip though isn’t it? Colour-wise that is.
How do you think Fulham will fare this season, and what was your impression of how we played under Coleman?
To be honest, I always though Coleman did a good job. Last season wasn’t anything to do with him, he just lost the players backing and they wouldn’t perform for him. Players will blame anyone but themselves, and a run of poor form will have them blaming the manager in a heartbeat. Once that happens, it’s a downward spiral. I thought Fulham were functional under Coleman – nothing more, nothing less. Sanchez has shaken things up a bit, but it’s always hard for a player to see a new guy come in and bring in his mates (Northern Irelanders in this case), knowing that this will change the team dynamic and create an instant clique within the ranks. However, his record as the N.Irish manager, and his work at the end of last season does stand him in good stead. Ladbrokes are quoting 4/1 for Fulham to finish in the top half, and I reckon that’s worth having a score on.
Who in the Fulham Line up worries you for Sunday?
I like Diop. He’s athletic, strong, has a good eye for a pass and can welly a ball. He’s also 8 foot tall or something. McBride and Kamara will also be a handful. Our centre backs aren’t particularly tall and have lacked positional awareness, so those two could cause problems. I’m afraid to say that a lot of the new Fulham boys are a little untested at that level of league football, so it’s hard to say who really stands out apart from the 3 I’ve already mentioned.
Your prediction for the score?
I think we’ll win it by a goal. It’ll be a cagey game, but a 2-1 or 1-0 is my bet. I’ll say 2-1 and go as far as to say van Persie will get both. He’s on form, and is just a top class player.
Finally, given the choice between selling out to a multi-millionaire owner who guarantees you a Premier League and Champions League double or continuing to play football the way you currently do and winning nothing which would you choose?
That is a tough one. My ideology against my desire for trophies? Hmmmm… I think when all is said and done its titles that matter. People talk about the Dutch side of the 70’s, but what did they actually win? Titles get you remembered. No one talks about the kids from the Carling Cup run now. That’s all swept under the carpet. If they’d won it however, it would go down in league history. Ideally, we’d win and be able to do it with style, à la the double winning sides of ‘98 and ’02, but out of the options you given me, success is more important. That said, Kroenke can sod off! And Ecclestone too. It’s so much sweeter knowing you’ve earned it. Are you listening Ch*ls** fans?
Thursday, August 09, 2007
One of those natural leaders is Aaron Hughes, and it also emerged that he picked up an injury in the QPR friendly that could keep him out for around six weeks. That's a bad thing. With no obvious sign that we're any closer to signing that elusive "experienced" centre back a lot of weight was on Hughes' shoulders to ensure he led the back line. Without him we're basically back to the same players that failed Chris Coleman last year. I don't mean that unduly harshly as I still rate a lot of those players, but as a unit they definitely failed to perform. My money's on Zat and Boca starting, but both Pearcey and Christanval made an appearance (if only on the bench) at QPR so may still be in the running.
No official confirmation from Fulham that we have signed Leijer the 21 year old Aussie centre back. It was mentioned on TFI that he was at Motspur Park yesterday afternoon for the medical so we should hear something today.
Finally the Reserves took on Aldershot in their final friendly on Tuesday night. Yet again this match was shrouded in mystery as far as the Fulham website was concerned but the Shots site says they "rounded off their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw against a strong Fulham side at the Recreation Ground. Lewis Chalmers gave The Shots an early lead but it was cancelled out a short time later when the Cottagers equalised from a spot kick". So there you go. I really don't understand why Fulham have refused to advertise the reserve fixtures or provide any news off the players involved or how they got on. I can't believe it's a football decision and am left to assume it's just another symptom of the shoddy website management.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
As a Fulham fan I am fiercely proud of our "little" ground, it's still full of character, even after the recent modernisation and having spent so long within it's confines there are few places where I feel more at home. However, as modern stadia go, the Emirates (which is a crap name, I don't really care how much money you're getting for naming rights it's not the same as giving a ground a proper moniker) Stadium is pretty impressive. The whole tour took an hour and was very well presented. I remember as a kid I did the Wembley tour a couple of times, and that was really special, the Emirates inevitably does not have the same sense of history yet but it is still worth looking round. From the executive seating areas with very comfy seats to the players entrance with an imposing facade for visiting teams and an underfloor time capsule. From the dug out along side the immaculate pitch to the home dressing room with its feng shui design. Everything is very modern and yet very well designed. I'd really like to go and see Fulham play there, this coming Sunday has come too soon,but maybe next season I can make it along. I did place my own special voodoo curse on the ground by wearing my Fulham hat and reciting the ancient gypsy spell "comeonyouwhites" repeatedly in the home dressing room. Let's hope it works.
Ben loved the whole day. We also took the time to find the massive A R S E N A L letters over the clock end bridge and walked back to Highbury to see what remains of that once special stadium. When I asked him what his favourite part of the day was he looked at me with a certain look in his eye and said "I can't say the shop can I?".
Here's some photos for those that are interested.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Comments are welcome either via this blog or via my email which you should be able to get from my profile page.
Monday, August 06, 2007
UNLUCKY! HA HA HA!
The Chavs also have a mounting injury list.
Ok - I am being petty and small minded.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Franck Queudrue has left the club to join Birmingham City for around £2.5m. I've had mixed feelings about Franck, having been quite excited when we signed him, but subsequently disappointed when I saw him play. Still feel he could probably have found a better club but it might make the final home game of the season more interesting. Actually thinking about it let's hope that, and maybe the outside chance of qualifying for Europe, is the only reason the final home game of the season is interesting!
We played QPR on Friday night and lost 2-1. I didn't see any of it so check Craven Cottage Newsround or the Offal for more extensive reports. It sounds like we didn't take our chances (that sounds familiar) whilst the R's did take theirs. McBride scored our goal early in the 1st half, but also missed three decent chances. Healy started alongside him as Kamara is still suffering from the injury he picked up against Portsmouth. Lee Cook made his first start for us and played 45 minutes, Ian Pearce also made a return coming on as a 2nd half substitute and Philippe Christanval was on the bench. The first game is in a weeks time at Arsenal before our first home match against Bolton on Wednesday night.
The BBC are reporting that we have signed Australian centre back Adrian Leijer but he doesn't arrive until Tuesday so I doubt it will be officially announced until then.
Updates might be a bit intermittent on here for various reasons. I'm going on a tour of the Emirates Stadium tomorrow with Chop Jr. so will report back with my opinion later in the week. This weeks "humorous headlines" were courtesy of The Fall.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Fulham FC Community Sports Trust is proud to be a beneficiary charity of the Great British Duck Race.
Please support us in raising funds for our disability programme which offers much needed sporting opportunities for young disabled people. We deliver positive and inclusive programmes across a number of disabilities, including Downs Syndrome, Deaf, Visually Impaired and Mild and Severe learning difficulties.Each year we carry out a number of fund raising events to grow the programme of work we carry out with disadvantaged groups in South London and Surrey.
On Sunday 2nd September 2007, 165,000 rubber ducks will be sent down a 1km stretch of the river Thames near Hampton Court Palace and in doing so, will set a new World Record and raise £500,000 for UK charities!
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Become a Record Breaker - adopt a duck today and help a very worthy cause. To adopt a duck and support Fulham FC CST just click into
The Great British Duck Race will do the rest. You are not restricted to one duck, buy as many as you like and tell your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances the more ducks you have, the greater difference you make.